We have reached the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (28 June 2020) and we continue with principal readings from the Book of Genesis.
Today’s story is about how Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac.
Rev. Geoff McKee offers some thoughts which are close to the relational core of this well-known tale and reflects on what it reveals about Abraham and the implications for future people of faith.
The four lectionary readings for this week are below, together with prayers, a musical choice and Geoff’s audio sermon.
Genesis 22:1-14 (New International Version)
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Slaves to Righteousness
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Serve one another in love.
We begin this day in the power of your Holy Spirit, O God. We lift up our hearts, to praise you, O Christ. Be for us today, our Saviour, the guardian in our weakness, a friend on our journey, and our aim for all we seek to do.
O God, on lonely Mount Moriah you put your servant Abraham to the test. We confess that we have failed much lesser tests of our faith. We have allowed sin to run our lives, to shape how we act toward others, and to kill our relationship with you.
In your great mercy, forgive us. Change even our bodies from implements of destruction to instruments of your peace.
Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us birth by water and Holy Spirit, teach us how to live always in integrity of body, mind, and spirit, in obedience to your love, in the name of Jesus Christ, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory now and forever. Amen.
NOTE: The above audio is in mp3 format and is also downloadable, if you wish to listen at a time when you may not have a reliable internet connection. Other devices are available but, on a PC, for example, if you right-click on the 3 vertical dots at the right side of the audio player, the drop-down menu should offer the option to “Save as…”
Prayers of Intercession
Creator of all things seen and unseen, you blew the Spirit of Christ into apostles and disciples enslaved by sin, freeing your people from death and captivating us with your steadfast love.
You raised the body of Christ, the church in the world, to proclaim the good news of salvation. For the sake of the world we pray, Come, Lord Jesus!
We pray for all whom you call into the work of the church. May they know the presence of your Spirit to strengthen, guide, correct, comfort, and challenge. We pray for all whose lives are touched by the church’s witness. May they feel the healing hands of Christ Jesus serving them with gentleness, kindness, grace, and love.
We pray for the world into which you call the church. May we be able to bring words of comfort and healing to those who are sick. May we demonstrate the hope that inspires us through our actions. Help us to be faithful in giving ourselves away for the sake of the gospel. In your Spirit, let us show the peace of Christ to a world overwhelmed by the fear of pandemic, bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones, share the bread of heaven with a world of hunger, offer springs of living water to a world of pollution, and lead the way of truth and life with the gifts of faith, hope, and love until you bring the fullness of your new creation. Then and now we rejoice with the multitudes: praise, honour, and glory to you, Holy Trinity, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ who taught us to pray….
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
[NOTE: Prayers of intercession reprinted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press from Feasting on the Word Worship Companion. Copyright 2014 (amended)]
This version of the hymn” I surrender all” reflects God’s expectations of us, which is to be prepared to give up everything for Him. This is a very well known hymn with a difference. There is also a contrasting section “Lord I give to you all I ever have” Following this, there is a brief pause, change of key and an emotionally charged rendition of the final chorus driven by a steady drumbeat. “I surrender all” is deeply moving, especially when we reflect on what God asked of Abraham. (Katherine Robertson).